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Suffolk, insurer to pay solar firm $10.8M after ruling upheld

Suffolk County and its insurer will pay a solar firm $10.8 million after a federal appeals court upheld a lower court ruling that the county broke its contract by refusing to allow installation of solar panels at the Ronkonkoma train station parking lot.

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals agreed the county “breached its contractual obligations” to EDF Renewable Development Inc. and the company was entitled to damages resulting from that breach. Jason Elan, county spokesman, said the $400,000 damage award was higher than in the original decision because interest costs had accumulated.

Elan said the county already has sent the San Diego-based company a check for $3 million, and that the remainder will be covered by the insurer with whom the county has a policy that handles the county’s liability in catastrophic cases. 

EDF sued the county in 2012 after County Executive Steve Bellone decided not to proceed with solar construction at the train station, the largest of a half-dozen parking lots involved in the $110 million project, in which the county was to share profits from selling the solar power.

The county stopped work in Ronkonkoma over concern that it might interfere with plans for the $538 million Ronkonkoma Hub, a 1,450-unit transit-related development. While county lawyers said the firm did not follow contract procedures for resolving the dispute and had not shown it suffered specific damages, the lower court found the county was “intentionally stalling the project” and made compliance with the contract “impossible.”

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